UNDP’s Coastal risk project is boosting economic livelihoods in Turtle Island

December 9, 2022

A view of the seashore at Turtle Island, Bonthe District

Turtle Island, located in Diema Chiefdom, Bonthe District, has been an attractive sight for tourists and foreign researchers over the past years. Residents of the island are predominantly fishmongers and farmers, save the fact that it is along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The island has over 5,000 residents, who have suffered perennial experiences of deprivation due to its hard-to-reach aquatic terrain. 

Many traders who depended on the fishing business had resorted to cutting down trees for charcoal burning and to be used as firewood. According to them, the fish business is no longer booming. Like other island communities, indiscriminate deforestation activities in Turtle Island have not even speared the mangroves. 

Even though the fishmongers have been in this business for most of their lives, they have always experienced preservation challenges. 

Through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) GEF-funded coastal risk project, their trade of fishing is being revived, and this time in Turtle Island, with an improved value chain that will boost local economies. 

For the first time in history, Turtle Island now has a solar-power cold room and ice-making machine that will help fishmongers to preserve their fish from perishing while serving the entire Island.  

With the ongoing construction of a jetty in Turtle Island, fishmongers have mustered the much confidence they needed to revive their trade from past losses as goods will now be easily preserved and transported to other markets. 

Photo showing member of Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), Satu Challey in front of her business shop in Bumpetok, Turtle Island.

The coastal risk project has also brought financial access to businesswomen on the Island through Village Loans and Savings Associations (VSLAs) and financial literacy training. 

Mr. Ishmeal Bahomi, the UNDP focal person said “the women and youth of turtle Island have been deprived for quite a very long time. I want to thank UNDP for being the first UN Agency to discover, identify, and respond to the viable economic needs of the people in Turtle Island. 

Trained in various skills such as gara-tie-dyeing, fish value processing, waste management, recycling, improved cooking stoves, etc., these groups are using their new skills to build forward their local economic activities while adapting to climate-induced risks in coastal communities. 

Since 2027, UNDP/Global Environment Facility-funded coastal risk project has provided different capacities ranging from training on alternative livelihood and life skills opportunities to climate change campaigns.   

Women and youth on the Island are now using their skills and training to influence best climate change practices while learning to adapt to climate-induced coastal risks posed by climate change. 

Stakeholders on the Island have all welcome the project interventions and are committed to ensuring that they (local leaders) will provide oversight to the local structures and allow effective and efficient management.

Thanks to UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone through various line ministries, departments, and agencies such as Fisheries, the National Tourist Board, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography (IMBO).